Distracted deaths down, injuries up

Distracted driving crashes killed fewer people in 2012, but the number of injuries was up significantly.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said 3,328 died in the distracted driving crashes, down slightly from 2011’s 3,360 fatalities.

NHTSA logo - Department of TransportationAbout 421,000 injuries occurred in 2012, a 9 percent increase from the previous year (387,000). The NHTSA said it is “just beginning to identify distraction-related accidents,” so the totals of death and injuries no doubt are higher — as has been the case since use of mobile communications devices while behind the wheel became an issue in the 1990s.

The Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) data indicated that overall traffic fatalities increased to 33,561 last year. That would be the first increase in deaths since 2005.

“Early estimates on (overall) crash fatalities for the first half of 2013 indicate a decrease in deaths compared to the same time frame in 2012,” the NHTSA said. The 2013 report did not break out distracted driving fatalities.

The NHTSA singled out deaths of pedestrians as a contributor to the increase in deaths. “Distracted walking” — pedestrians’ use of handheld devices that restrict hearing — is an emerging area of research and concern. Pedestrian deaths were up 6 percent.

NHTSA Administrator David L. Strickland said:

While we’re seeing some unfortunate trends, we’re also seeing progress in some parts of the country. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners to change the way motorists behave on our roadways and build public awareness of key issues that have the potential to save many lives.

2011’s fatalities were a slight increase over those of 2010. The DOT and NHTSA changed their methodology for tracking distracted driving crashes at the beginning of the decade, making long-term comparisons difficult.


  1. Al Cinamon says:

    Why should anyone be surprised that traffic crashes are on the rise? The spate of laws against distracted driving actually encourage distracted driving. According to AAA, “Phone conversations have essentially the same effect whether they happen on a hands-free or hand-held device.” The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety agrees. A 2005 IIHS study of drivers in Western Australia found cellphone users (both hands-free and hand-held) 4 times as likely to get into crashes serious enough to injure themselves.

    Yet, our states only ban hand-held not hands-free. So who are they kidding? Apparently, a lot of people.

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